Cinema: Aug–Sep 2019

  • Once Upon a Time… in Hollywood. Still showing in theaters around. So I am not late… Based on more than two months ago memories, it is full of typical Tarantino‘s humor. The main pillar is Brad Pitt who outplayed everybody by a margin. The most memorable scene is Leo being schooled by an eight-year-old girl (Julia Butters). I’m gonna go again, I guess. 8/10
  • Tel Aviv on Fire (תל אביב על האש). Very original, yet simple, and funny in a serious context. 8/10
  • One Child Nation. A documentary about past China’s “one child” policy. Difficult topic. A lot of pain. Numerous heartbreaking accounts. Seems honestly made. Very well received.
  • Luce. In the end, I was not sure what was that about, but Kelvin Harrison Jr. was ominously convincing. The other cast was also great (Naomi Watts, Octavia Spencer). 7/10
  • The Peanut Butter Falcon. A warm fantasy story. I see, Shia LaBeouf grew up from a boy to a man. Maybe it’s the beard. They with Zack Gottsagen put some wonderful performances. Dakota Johnson as well. For her, of course, it is not even close to what she achieved in last year’s Suspiria (one of my favorite films of 2018), but it seems a good trend she follows. 7/10
  • Solaris (Солярис). It was again a classics screening. Before I only saw the film as a horrible quality video recording many years ago. As with Andrei Rublev, also this year, one can observe how unique Tarkovsky was. A familiar spiritual atmosphere and philosophical content is present in many of his films, but I struggle to find similar examples by other directors. Imagine if a scene like a five-minute noir Tokyo driving scene, ending abruptly, appeared in some modern film. I believe, the majority of popcorn eaters would just leave. (And it is good.) It is even unlikely any funding could be given for a surreal scene of this sort. Nonetheless, many echoes and influences on today’s cinema are evident. Both Kubrick‘s 2001: A Space Odyssey and Tarkovsky‘s Solaris are monumental films on the topic. But in the end, and as before, my main memory of the film remains to be an immensely beautiful and mysterious Hari (Natalya Bondarchuk). The role, though theatrical, is unforgettable. 10/10
  • Good Boys. I understand, the film may raise some warm school memories for an American, but for me, personally, it made little sense. I guess, my impression from the film is a of a similar sort as from Booksmart earlier this year. Both were well received, but for me they are considerably inferior to school life explorations, such as Greta Gerwig‘s Lady Bird, or even Jonah Hill‘s Mid90s (though only indirectly related). 5/10
  • Brittany Runs a Marathon. A wonderful comedy/drama with hilarious Jillian Bell. Based on a true story, which I found impressive. 8/10
  • After the Wedding. I mainly went to the cinema due to my favorite Julianne Moore. But it turned out quite boring. 5/10
  • Aquarela. Some impressive shots and atmosphere here. Cinematography is unbelievable.
  • Ms. Purple. This is a very beautiful, yet full of pain, poetic film, with a wonderful soundtrack, influenced by Clint Mansell‘s work. In some respect, it reminded me of Chloé Zhao‘s films. It is truly honest and simple, at times incredibly low key, but that corresponds to the story. Wonderful Tiffany Chu is unforgettable, and the director is Justin Chon. Remember a guy from Twilight? I need to watch Gook. 8/10
  • Official Secrets. An incredibly interesting film based on the real-life story of Katharine Gun. Keira Knightley‘s portrayal of the former is convincing. Ralph Fiennes‘s presence is acknowledged. Certain parts of the film raised intense euphoria due to the triumph of justice at an unbelievable scale. The surreal court trial is prominent. Yet, cases of this sort are only possible in a short list of countries with really strong democratic mechanisms. The story of Katharine Gun could have been really sad, had it occurred somewhere else (but still in the major part) of the modern world. Which says how undeveloped we still are. 8/10

This is coming in the next edition, but Monos, Ad Astra, and First Love (初恋) are highly recommended.

Cinema: April 2019

  • The Hummingbird Project (Kim Nguyen), 7/10. Alexander Skarsgård absolutely steals the film. His Anton Zaleski is great. Lots of funny moments, but the script could have been improved.
  • Ash Is Purest White / 江湖儿女 (Jia Zhangke), 8/10. A very atmospheric film. For me was also interesting as learning about the Chinese culture. The story is simple, but Zhao Tao’s lead is splendid, and again there are lots of incredibly atmospheric scenes with a marvelous soundtrack, which at times reminded me Eduard Artemyev’s work on Tarkovsky’s “Solyaris”.
  • Sorry Angel / Plaire, aimer et courir vite (Christophe Honoré), 8/10. Very honest, bitterly funny and romantic, with a great soundtrack (e.g. Ride, Cocteau Twins). The year is 1993. Was recalling “Philadelphia”.
  • The Mustang (Laure de Clermont-Tonnerre), 9/10. Read a letter from Laure. Matthias Schoenaerts is unbelievable in this one. There are subtle moments that equestrian specialists would appreciate, I believe. Emotionally intricate: touching fragile scenes, the rough prison set-up, atmospheric nature scenes. So far the best of 2019. Or near.
  • Hotel Mumbai (Anthony Maras), 7/10. At times hard to watch. Well made, indeed. One could realize how similar that looks to school shooting scenarios.
  • Us (Jordan Peele), 5/10. What did Jordan try to create? A comedy? Indeed, the audience was mostly laughing for some reason. A horror movie? Felt more like a parody. An intellectual thriller? I wish I could believe the story. No, unfortunately. Smart symbolism? I heard it may have some particular meaning for Americans. Well, not me to judge. Lupita Nyong’o is the only bright spot.
  • Gloria Bell (Sebastián Lelio), 7/10. Julianne Moore is a treasure as usual.
  • High Life (Claire Denis), 9/10. Dark, oppressing. Recalling 2001: A Space Odyssey, Sunshine. Also Event Horizon. Stuart A. Staples’ score is incredibly good and fitting. Cinematography is wonderful. As is direction. There are so many interesting and experimental shots. Robert Pattinson and Juliette Binoche were convincing.
  • Little Woods (Nia DaCosta), 7/10. It is a decent film. Nothing special. “True story”. Depressing rural atmosphere. Wonderful Tessa Thompson and Lily James. At times, a bit theatrical. I think I liked the music in the film.
  • Peterloo (Mike Leigh), 1/10. They just talk, and talk, and talk. For 2.5 hours. Never the end. The characters and acting so stereotypical and exaggerated. It is about an important event. But it is supposed to be a film (i.e. art). Feels more like a poorly-made feature for a “History” channel. The ending is a fitting embarrassing conclusion to this whole thing. Why would you want to film a Peterloo massacre with no budget and with a PG-13 rating?
  • Teen Spirit (Max Minghella), 7/10. Elle Fanning and especially Zlatko Buric are very good in this film. Although the topic would normally be of little interest to me, it’s really enjoyable, and the songs, I think, are well made. The independent film touch is beneficial. Some atmospheric scenes. Also, Elle’s Polish seems impressive.
  • Never Look Away / Werk ohne Autor (Florian Henckel von Donnersmarck), 9/10. More than 3 hours, but never boring. Cinematography and direction is incredible here. Acting not so much, and is secondary. The overall story too. The colors are so beautiful. The art school set-up is very interesting. Just learning about the German art of the time. Some experimental art. Painting scenes are so magnetic. I cannot recall anything better in this respect. Also, Max Richter’s score is notable.
  • Avengers: Endgame (Anthony RussoJoe Russo), 4/10. At times, there is good humor. At times, stupid. Mostly bum-bum, though well-made, with some pretentious and pathetic “philosophical” conversations. The whole story, “time travel” is laughable. They put all these characters in one feature—in the end, a kindergarten. But, I understand, this just follows a comic book. This is how it is and what people enjoy. Well, the universe is “saved”, let’s celebrate. A complete waste of talent for Brie Larson.

But a more important question is how did I miss the below to finally watch Darya’s film? In America. I do work a lot, but I think there could have been a little bit more advertising of the event. Little Woods and Teen Spirit were in the program too.